In recent years, the term “supergroup” has been so recklessly slung around that it’s lost all meaning. There are, however, notable exceptions – chief among them being the mighty This Is Menace.
Conceived in 2004 by bassist Mark Clayden and future Bullet For My Valentine drummer Jason Bowld (both of whom played together in industrial idols Pitchshifter), this British metalcore behemoth gathered an unprecedented amount of talent from no fewer than 17 bands. They didn’t just aim to push the boundaries of metalcore with their self-described “leviathanic, guitar-driven” sound and carousel of vocalists, either; they tore the rulebook to shreds. Though active for only four years, in their all-too-brief reign, the collective unleashed a sonic rampage, leaving behind a legacy of slamming albums and creative insurgence.
This Is Menace were born from a desire for musical liberation. Bowld and Clayden, during a Pitchshifter hiatus, envisioned a different kind of metal outfit. Unlike conventional bands, this one featured no permanent vocalist, instead relying on the talents of a jaw-dropping pack of high-profile vocalists from the UK’s metal and hardcore scenes: names included Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke), Barney Greenway (Napalm Death), Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill (Sikth), Jeff Walker (Carcass) and Matt Davies (Funeral For A Friend). It was an exciting proposition with revelatory implications for the future of all styles of music.
This Is Menace’s 2005 debut, No End In Sight, was a tour-de-force of hardcore, alt-rock and metal, bursting with equal doses of testosterone and rage. Characterised by its blistering riffs and eclectic mix of vocal styles, the album confronted both the traditional notions of what bands could be as well as the sociopolitical issues of the time. Despite its critical acclaim, however, No End… failed to notch significant commercial success. The album garnered a cult following instead, resonating powerfully with diehards drawn to its unbridled intensity.
2007’s follow-up, The Scene Is Dead, continued on the path of its predecessor, further refining the sound and message. Tracks like The Great Migration, with its chugging bassline and Coleman’s agonised vocals, and Beg For Silence, featuring Greenway’s scorched-earth howl, represented opposing ends of the UK’s heavy music spectrum, united under a singular vision.
Though more polished than the debut, The Scene Is Dead failed to generate the rousing response that it very much deserved. At the time, NME dismissed it as “brash and brainless, but brilliant to break stuff to”, though concluded, “The irony is that if these bands were having this much fun on their own records, British rock would be a lot more colourful a place.”
Despite their innovative approach and vaunted lineup, This Is Menace failed to crack into metal’s mid-2000s mainstream. It didn’t help that the logistical challenges of coordinating a rotating lineup of vocalists made live performances rare and unpredictable. Nonetheless, footage of the band’s 2005, rooftop-destroying set at London’s Mean Fiddler underscores the jaw-dropping power of a juggernaut firing on all cylinders. Adding to the gig’s allure, the evening featured a prize drawing, with the winner receiving a personalised gravestone with their date of birth and an epitaph written by the band. The date of death was left conveniently blank.
In 2012, looking back on the struggles of bringing the This Is Menace live show to fans, Bowld explained, “Trying to organise a gig was a nightmare, getting all the singers… it was incredibly stressful. You had the core musicians and then the singers would come in and do a song or two. Stressful. A lot to sort out. It was an experiment, a fun experiment, but you can't sustain that kind of thing.”
As a result, This Is Menace’s tenure proved disappointingly brief. In 2008, Bowld shuttered the band to launch They Fell From The Sky with Hundred Reasons’ Colin Duran. However, 2020 saw the release of Ism: a compilation of this project’s first two albums along with a previously-unreleased song called Redisposed. Their catalogue additionally includes a 2005 EP, Collusion, and a DVD of the Mean Fiddler gig called Emotion Sickness.
Despite their lack of greater recognition, the importance of This Is Menace cannot be overstated. 20 years after their formation, they stand as a monument to artistic integrity and the exhilarating spirit of collaboration. They may not have conquered the charts, but they achieved something far more valuable: leaving behind a legacy of being, in hindsight, leagues ahead of their time.